Goulash, Of Course

I'm shocked, let me tell you. Totally shocked.

No, I'm not being Louis Renault, Casablanca's police chief, on discovering that gambling is carried on at Ricks Cafe (just before receiving his winnings). Rather it's the lack of goulash recipes out there. My go to encylopaedia is Prue Leith's Cookery Bible. There you can find out how to make beef geng ped nua. But goulash? Nope. Or go to Christopher Trotter's The Whole Cow. From there you will also return sad and goulash-less.

Now I know how I make mine, but I thought that you, dear reader, might like a definitive professional version. The trouble is, there's no such thing as there are so many variables. For example, the cooking time will depend on your choice of meat. My preference would be for what we in Scotland call round steak. The rest of Britain knows it as rump. That's by no means the cheapest cut, and you have to be careful not to overdo it. On the other hand, use the most basic stewing steak and you can cook it for 40 days and 40 nights without undue harm.

Your flavours? I use red peppers. A recipe I found calls for green, a veg I use but rarely. For me a good hit of garlic is essential, and the sine qua non is, of course, paprika. A couple of tablespoons, says my recipe carelessly. But you have the choice of three, sweet, hot and smoked. For me, a good goulash needs at least two. Smoked isn't my favourite. It can impart a slightly dusty taste (though perhaps I just need to refresh my spice cupboard). I use a combination of sweet and spicy, but feel free to pick and mix as you wish. A splash of red wine never does any harm, but is optional.

Finally, anything with red wine and tomatoes can be a little sour. A spoonful of sugar will cure that, but it's a matter of taste. Finally, finally, some books will have you add flour to the meat for thickening. My preference, once the meat is cooked, is to strain off the liquid and reduce it over a high heat. Again, up to you. Some recipes I feel strongly about - this ain't one of them.


600g round steak, cut into good sized chunks, about 3cm square; 1 large onion, thinly sliced; 1 large red pepper, deseeded and thinly sliced; 2 - 3 cloves of garlic, crushed; good squeeze tomato purée; 1 400g tin of tomatoes; 75ml red wine (optional); about 300ml water or beef stock; 1 tbsp sweet paprika; 1 tbsp hot paprika; 1 tsp sugar (optional); s & p; veg oil.


Brown the meat in batches, being careful not to overheat the pan (you don't want nasty black bits). Remove the beef. In the same pan soften the onion and pepper with the garlic, adding salt and pepper. Add the tomato purée, then return the beef to the pan and stir together for a couple of minutes. If using, add the wine at this stage and cook for a minute or two to burn off the alcohol. Chuck in the tomatoes, and pour in enough water or stock to cover the beef. Add the paprika. Cover the pan and simmer until the beef is cooked. Check your seasoning. You might want to add sugar, or adjust the paprika levels. Strain off the liquid, then reduce over a high heat to whatever is your desired consistency. (I have a dislike of runny gravies.)

Sour cream and parsley are traditional accompaniments. Some serve with pasta: others like dumplings. I like mashed tatties. Try stirring sour cream or crème fraîche into your mash - along with loads of butter, of course.

1 Comment

  1. Fiona Garwood on 22nd March 2024 at 9:50 pm

    Sounds good. Thanks Tom. We look forward to trying it next week

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